by Camela Cuison
When Love Letters Straight From Your Heart came to the Lakeside in Colchester, on February 22, Valentine’s Day wasn’t yet a distant memory, and the never-ending war between the loved-up and the singled-out was still ringing in my ears. Although among the latter this year, I remain a shameless lover of love. Anything that can encourage our cold wintered hearts to thaw can never be fully encompassed by a Clinton’s card.
Enter Love Letters Straight from Your Heart. Prior to the show, members of the audience were invited to send “dedications” to the ones they love with a song of their choosing. (Since music is such a fundamental part of this show, I feel the need to tell you that as I write this I am being serenaded by the King himself with ‘Are you Lonesome tonight?’ and Chet Baker’s heart-breaking 1959 performance of ‘My Funny Valentine’.)
On arrival, the audience sat around a dinner table, armed with a glass of bubbly (merely an accompaniment to my glass of red). As the first dedications rolled out, I felt like I was being sucked into a more consuming version of Mellow Magic’s love letters. But then it dawned on me: these dedications weren’t alien, impersonal voices coming from the radio; they were from those around me. Couples kissed as their words of love were professed, men asked wives for forgiveness, some remained steely-eyed as their own confessions of unfulfilled love were read out, while others could do nothing but be empathetic to those around them.
I fell into the last two categories: I like to think I remained completely passive as my own words were read out. Yet on hearing a dedication between friends, my poker face failed me completely, to which I then proceeded to cough and pretend as if my glasses were causing an irritation that needed to be seen to immediately. The thing is, I can be a bit of a weepy fool, but when I finally got round to looking at the other members of the audience, through what were now misty glasses, there weren’t any dry eyes to be found.
With such a shamelessly romantic title, the meaning behind the play was never going to be a profound secret. However, there was something surprisingly real about sharing the joy and/or pain of people who had loved, were in love, had lost. This wasn’t art imitating life: for those members of the audience who wrote in, this was life, in all its blissful euphoria and consuming angst. It permitted us to be coddled in the cheesy, loved-up, never-to-admit-in-public kind of way that we all secretly desire. In the constant ennui that is third year at university, the intrusion of this play into my emotions shook me into a promising realisation. Maybe “all you need is love”. Maybe.